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Lunar eclipse 2018: How to watch the blood moon and Mars this Friday

The Virtual Telescope Project has your ticket to the longest total lunar eclipse of the century.

A NASA image of a "blood moon" blushing red.

NASA

A close approach by Mars will light up the sky all night Friday, July 27, and many parts of the world will also be able to catch a "blood moon" at the same time in a rare astronomical double-billing. Expect the total lunar eclipse to transform the moon into a 'blood moon' that is orangish red in color for more than a hundred minutes.

Those outside the viewing zone can catch the event online through the Virtual Telescope Project.

Friday's red moon comes as part of the longest total lunar eclipse of the century. The sun, Earth and moon will line up and our planet will cast a reddish shadow onto our lunar buddy. That's how it gets the dramatic-sounding "blood moon" nickname. 

Mars will also be part of the show because the Red Planet and sun will be on opposite sides of Earth, a phenomenon know as Mars opposition. Mars will be nearing its closest approach to Earth since 2003, making it look very bright in the sky. Its appearance near the blood moon after sunset will give viewers a double vision in red.

The eclipse will be visible in parts of Australia, Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. Sorry, North America, you'll need to watch online instead. 

Now playing: Watch this: The planets are aligned for a lunar eclipse, blood moon...
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The Virtual Telescope Project will set up shop at the Roman Forum on the Palatine Hill in Rome with a livestream camera facing the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine. That should make for quite a dramatic backdrop. The livestream starts on Friday at 11:30 a.m. PT.

This will be a great way for North Americans to get a glimpse of the event. And it can also be a back-up option for people in the eclipse viewing zone in case of cloudy skies.

Currently, the weather forecast for Rome calls for clear conditions on Friday. If that holds, then the Virtual Telescope Project view of Mars and the moon should be spectacular.

And if you can't catch this blood moon, don't worry. The next one comes in January and will be visible from Europe and the Americas.

First published July 23, 10:50 a.m. PT. 
Update, July 27, 3:27 p.m. PT.: Adds additional information on the lunar eclipse and when the next blood moon will be visible.